After months without sporting events, the canton of Neuchâtel took on the role of pioneer by welcoming the 25th edition of the Swiss Canyon Trail to the Val-de-Travers this weekend. Thanks a strict health and safety protocol and the discipline of the 2,000 or so participants and 600 volunteers the competition ran perfectly. The event ended with a beautiful finish in the prestigious 111K with a tie for 1st place in the men’s race between Benoit Girondel (FRA) and Hugo Deck (FRA), while Switzerland’s Laurence Yerly was victorious in the women’s. Also on Saturday, the 51K determined the athletes who will represent Switzerland at the next trail running world championship. On Sunday, the always-popular 31K delivered a magnificent spectacle worthy of the “pros” won by France’s Simon Paccard and Switzerland’s Marianne Fatton.
The first major trail race run since the beginning of the pandemic, the Swiss Canyon Trail was held this weekend in Couvet, Switzerland in particular conditions. The event was organised under the control of the canton of Neuchâtel that imposed strict sanitary measures. The authorities gave the Swiss Canyon Trail the green light as a test event. The results were very positive as noted by the President of the Neuchâtel Council of State Laurent Favre: “The sanitary conditions were impeccable. The organisers were very rigorous; more so than required”.
Measures taken by the Swiss Canyon Trail to ensure the safety of all participants and volunteers included limiting the number of entries, requiring negative PCR or antigen tests for everyone entering the site, social distancing, and a special protocol at refreshment areas. There was also an on-site test centre; none of the 900 tests administered on-site were positive. “It was an enormous amount of work that shook up the organisation. But it was the one condition to be able to organise the event”, added Patrick Christinat, President of the Organising Committee.
The Service of consumption and veterinary affairs (SCAV) was also very satisfied: “The rare points of detail noted on Saturday were immediately resolved by the organisers who collaborated completely, which allowed everyone to participate in excellent sanitary conditions. In the end, the event respected Covid protection protocols perfectly”, explained Pierre-François Gobat, head of the service who spent the weekend observing the race. A full debrief will be organised and a report will be addressed to the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP).
Once again accompanied by a fellow racer, Benoit Girondel crossed the finish line victorious. After winning in 2019 alongside Martin Kern, this time it was with Hugo Deck. They joined forces to best Jean-Philippe Tschumi (CH) who completed the podium in the most prestigious category. In the women’s competition, Neuchâtel’s Laurence Yerly (Cernier) won the 25th edition putting a large gap between herself, Caroline Muller (Mauraz) and Ophélie Rossignol (Geneva).
A resident of the canton of Schwytz Tobias Baggenstos (Gersau) was crowned 2021 Swiss trail running champion, followed by Pascal Egli (Leysin VD) and Ramon Manetsch (Köniz BE). In the women’s championship, Emma Pooley (Hausen am Albis ZH) took the win in front of Sara Escobar Carron (Ravoire VS) and local runner Ariane Wilhem (Fontainemelon NE).
Billed as a fun race for all levels, the 31K resembled more of an elite race with particularly quick runners. Finishing ten minutes faster than predicted by the course planners, Simon Paccard (FRA) finished first in front of fellow Frenchman Yves Heloury and Germany’s Hannes Namberger. Switzerland’s Marianne Fatton (Dombresson) won the women’s event by a large margin in front of Marie Concalvez (FRA) et another Swiss runner Nathalie Geiser (Neuchâtel).